By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
Philippe Couillard reveals his ‘pet project’
Newly minted Quebec Liberal party Leader Philippe Couillard is a trained surgeon, an occasional businessman and an amateur fly-fisher. Yet he is best known as a consummate politician who has long held designs on the leadership of the party. In 2008, put off by then-leader Jean Charest’s stubborn hold on power, Couillard resigned as health minister and went into business. He also went fly-fishing on occasion. Both pursuits landed him in hot water.
Following his resignation, Couillard joined Persistence Capital Partners (PCP), a private equity fund “focused on high-growth opportunities in the health care field,” according to PCP’s website. That a former health minister would join a for-proﬁt health care fund ruffled a few feathers, though it shouldn’t have; after all, Quebec has the largest network of private medical clinics in the country.
But Couillard’s association with Arthur Porter, former CEO of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), has become a sizable blemish on Couillard’s otherwise impressive political resumé. Once the darling of Quebec’s medical establishment, Porter has since been charged with fraud in relation to alleged bribes he received from SNC-Lavalin in return for the contract to build the MUHC’s new megahospital. Porter, who says he has has advanced lung cancer, is holed up in his Bahamas compound. He has said he is too sick to travel to face the charges.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:47 PM - 0 Comments
Hint: it has nothing to do with Arthur Porter
We’ve heard the dirt on newly-minted Quebec Liberal Party leader many, many times in the past few months. We heard of his ties to disgraced health administration wunderkind Arthur Porter, having gone so far as to register a business with the man now facing a variety of fraud-related charges in relation to the construction of Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre. We heard how he dissolved said business on the same day he announced his candidacy for leader. We heard how he and Porter served on the board of the Security Intelligence Review Committee at roughly the same time. We heard how the pair went fishing together in New Brunswick.
It’s certainly worth questioning Couillard’s judgement on the Porter file—but then, you’d have to question the judgement of the province’s political and healthcare establishment, much of which was peachy-keen on Porter when he landed at McGill in 2004. You’d also have to question why the Conservative government would ever appoint such an apparently shady character to the chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the overseeing body of Canada’s national intelligence service. All anyone, from Couillard to Harper to the MUHC folks, had to do was read clippings from the Detroit Free Press’s Kim Norris to realize how Porter left that tragic city’s health system in 2003 under cloud of blown budgets, cost overruns and questionable decisions.
None of this stuff has stuck to Couillard—at least, not enough for it to prevent him from becoming Liberal leader. He managed to convince just enough people (and the voting public, if polls are to be believed) that Porter duped him as Porter did many other rich and powerful types in Quebec. It remains awfully strange that Couillard and Porter served on the SIRC board together, but barring further evidence of fire that story will remain smoke, to be blown away by whatever other scandal crops up.
Bully for Couillard, then. I too would be smiling if I managed to become the leader of the province’s most successful political party mere months after dissolving my relationship with one of its alleged biggest fraudsters. But while his Porter pas de deux remains troubling, if not altogether politically fraught, I’m more worried about another of Couillard’s skeletons, one that is somewhat more enduring than an aborted business venture with an alleged scam artist.
It’s this: Philippe Couillard is a federalist. Like, a huge federalist. As in, I-want-to-open-new-Constitution-talks federalist. On constitutional matters, he is an acolyte of Benoit Pelletier, Charest’s former intergovernmental affairs minister, who has pushed (or nudged, anyway) for new constitutional talks since leaving office in 2008. Couillard is even more constitutionally rabid than Pelletier. He said he wants Quebec to be a signatory of the Constitution by 2017. The fruit isn’t only ripe, in other words. It’s practically falling off the vine.
Which is all fine and good, except for this: should Couillard pursue this line of thinking in office, you and me and everyone else would be in for Meech Lake part deux, and all the spleen-venting, hair-pulling, hand-wringing fun that would entail. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have succeeded in stumping the Parti Québécois simply by depriving the sovereignist party of any platform from which to vent its rage. Our Prime Minister knows what the vast majority of Quebecers know: the province hasn’t suffered one iota from having not signed the Constitution in 1982. Talking about it puts most Quebecers to sleep—unless you force the issue on them. Then it’s Pandora’s Box time.
Imagine Canada, 2015. Couillard is Quebec Premier raring to go on the Constitution. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eager to right his father’s legacy, is just as eager. Together they embark on a vanity project that has little value beyond the cosmetic. The Parti Québécois gets suitably, predictably enraged. The rest of Canada does the same, when it isn’t busy yawning. Something is made of nothing and, yadda yadda yadda, Referendum.
Seems we’ve heard this record before. Why play it again?
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:24 PM - 0 Comments
There are so many Liberal leadership races going on across the country that sometimes we miss a few. I woke up in an arctic Montreal this morning eager to check one of the larger contests off my list. The candidates to succeed Jean Charest as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party — the convention will be in Montreal on March 16-17 — were having a kind of sort of debate.
The venue was the Sheraton Centre hotel, where a group called Idée Fédérale wanted to gauge the candidates’ federalist credentials. Idée Fédérale is designed to be a place where Quebecers can talk about Canada in public, as though it were respectable; its most visible figures are La Presse editor André Pratte and international-relations scholar Jocelyn Coulon, who inaugurated a durable tradition when he became the first in a string of federal Liberals to lose to Tom Mulcair in Outremont in 2007.
This morning’s breakfast was resolutely low-key. Pratte sat in a plush chair and interrogated the three candidates, gently gently, in turn. They did not appear together except for a group photo. Let’s take them in the order they appeared. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 2:08 PM - 0 Comments
What an amazing op-ed Philippe Couillard, the physician who is generally regarded as the front-runner to succeed Jean Charest as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, has published this morning in Le Devoir.
It’s an attempt to define liberalism in a Quebec context, but along the way it establishes Couillard as the most unconditionally pro-Canadian figure among prominent Quebec politicians. More so, at least in Couillard’s choice of rhetoric, than Charest. (Charest sometimes soft-pedaled his federalist convictions to avoid being criticized as an outsider who didn’t get Quebec.) In the context of Quebec’s Liberal Party, which was led for four decades by strongly nationalist figures — Jean Lesage, Robert Bourassa and especially Claude Ryan — Couillard’s position is radical, especially for a man who seems likely to win the leadership with little bother and who will surely have been advised against rocking the boat. Continue…